Graduate Financial Aid for International Students

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Within your own country and around the world, there are all sorts of places to inquire about possible graduate financial aid for your education in the United States. However, don't forget that some of the easiest resources to check out are the schools themselves. Whether you're still deciding on a school or you're already applying, make sure you find out if the schools you've chosen have programs available to help you pare down your tuition bill.

Graduate financial aid is available

While it's true that the graduate school financial aid pot for international students is smaller than the one for American students, that doesn't mean that there isn't anything available at all. If financial aid for graduate school is something you really need to pursue an education in the U.S., dig a little deeper and explore the opportunities at a variety of schools. You may need to consider attending a different school or plan to spend some time working in addition to studying, but the payoff will be worth it!

Paying for graduate school with assistantships

Graduate school financial aid for international students doesn't just come in the form of cold hard cash — which is a good thing, since there isn't much of it available. However, there are opportunities to gain some experience and help out your professors in exchange for tuition waivers. For graduate students in particular, many schools offer aid in the form of teaching and research assistantships. Typically, these are awarded based on academic merit, not financial need, so you'll need to demonstrate that you have the skills that are needed.

If you are planning to attend school as a graduate student, make sure you check with the university to see if such opportunities are available. These positions tend to be limited and competitive, so get an early start on applying for them if you're interested.

Exchange programs may provide financial aid for graduate school

If you've been told that U.S. schools don't offer financial aid to graduate international students at all, then you've been misinformed. There are some schools that do, and many of them are excellent universities that offer a top-notch education.

Many schools also participate in international student exchange programs, and in some cases, financial aid may be available for participating students. Look into exchange programs through schools and universities in your native country to get specifics on their exchange programs and any financial aid benefits they may offer.

Paying for graduate school with a CPT program

If you're a graduate student, you may be able to obtain full-time work as part of your studies through what is known as Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Immigration laws allow U.S. graduate schools to offer work that qualifies as CPT, but unfortunately, there are only a few schools that have programs in place to do this.

Typically, the jobs serve as a sort of paid internship, as they are related to your field of study. Schools that offer such programs structure their classes to accommodate students with a 40-hour work week, by offering classes during the day, at night, and on weekends.

CPT programs can be hard to find and require strict adherence to U.S. immigration laws. You can find out if schools you are considering have such programs available by checking with their department for international student affairs.

Don't give up on graduate financial aid

As an international student, finding money for graduate school is more challenging than it is for domestic students — but don't give up. It only becomes impossible if you don't look at all.

And don't forget to consider an array of payment options and approaches. In addition to school-based aid, look into loan and scholarship opportunities in your home country, in the private sector, and online. You may be able to come up with a nice assortment of financial awards that will make a big difference in your bottom line!

If you need more information on the graduate admissions process, besides information on financial aid, be sure to check out the graduate admissions section here at If you're in the process of applying and that graduate admissions essay is giving you some trouble, check out EssayEdge for expert essay editing services.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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